Operations / Manufacturing
This category of engineer is very similar to the support
and service engineer discussed earlier. The difference is
in this case, their customers are internal rather than
Most of these engineers will be employed in factories.
Operations engineers can be divided into the following
- Maintenance – keeping machines running
- Production – keeping production lines running.
- Process – keeping manufacturing processes optimized
- Procurement – supporting suppliers to ensure delivery and quality.
- Quality – maintaining and improving the company’s quality system
to assure product quality and regulatory standards compliance
of possible iterations on the job of the engineer in
operations is a long one and the above show a sample
of the most common categories.
In general, we can say that the operations
job is to keep a manufacturing process in a factory to
be as optimized as possible. To be sure, it is not correct
to assume that all this is sustaining work. On the contrary.
In this environment, the engineer is challenged with a
non-ending list of opportunities to work on. I would say
that this is one job category where the number of possible
projects that an engineer can work on will far exceed the
capacity to do them.
The ability to prioritize them based on technology, cost,
impact, risk, quality etc will need to be made at this
An operations engineer in general is not a specialist.
They are responsible for technologies that are very diverse,
as you can expect in a factory. They are generalists, with
the ability to integrate different technologies and management
tools to address issues. They will need to have sufficient
depth of knowledge to maintain the operation while at the
same time, have the ability to formulate integrated technical
initiatives to address a wide array of problems. The engineer
may not be a specialist, but will need to have the ability
to source other specialists and deploy them to be part
of the solution team.
To be sure, this is not an easy task by any measure. As
a career path, this is a good starting point towards a
project leadership or management career. On the engineering
path, this job will prepare the engineer for almost any
other job categories in the market.
Here are some key successful characteristics for an operations
- A generalist – knows many technologies
and have the ability to integrate them to solve problems
- Leadership – ability to identify opportunities for
improvement and source skills to help address them.
- Networking – among peers in other fields and suppliers.
- Problem solver – an analytical mind that can design and work with statistical
data to reach conclusions.
- Operations tools – statistics, quality, design of experiments, measurement.
- Influence – ability to influence others to support ideas and initiatives.